Gardaí acknowledge 'systematic flaws' on penalty points; One officer cancelled 744 notices in 17 counties 

Gardaí acknowledge 'systematic flaws' on penalty points; One officer cancelled 744 notices in 17 counties 

Update 3.15pm: An Garda Síochána has said it acknowledges that the penalty points system has had “systematic flaws and that some members of An Garda Síochána were using it in an inappropriate manner”.

The statement from the Force comes in the wake of today’s publication of a GSOCreport that found hundreds of gardaí were involved in widespread exploitation of the system, which saw them wipe fines and points for friends and relatives.

An Garda Síochána thanked Maurice McCabe ”who brought these matters to the attention of ourselves and other stakeholders. Sergeant McCabe has played a very valuable role in reform of the system.”

The Force added it had put in place a number of measures to address the issues identified in the report did not arise again, including:

    • The number of Garda members with the authority to cancel notices has reduced to only three people;

    • Former President of the Circuit Court, Mr Justice Matthew Deery, who has since January 2015 acted as the oversight authority for the penalty points system, has conducted two audits of the system and "has reported substantial compliance with the revised policy”;

    • All cases involving a garda seeking to have fixed noticed cancelled on the basis of performing official duties in their own vehicles are now referred to the Office of DPP for independent determination.

GSOC said: "It appears from the first two reports of the oversight authority that these changes are sufficiently robust to ensure that the new system cannot be circumvented in the same way as the previous one appears to have been. The safeguards now in place and the oversight processes now in operation should start to rebuild public confidence”.

Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said: “We have made significant and extensive reforms to the processing and oversight of requests for cancellation of penalty points. I am satisfied that we have a very robust process in place and this is reaffirmed by Judge Deery’s finding of substantial compliance.”

He said of GSOC’s decision to now discontinue the investigation into the system on the basis of cost, and its recommendation that resources be diverted into ensuring the system is robust going forward: “I accept the conclusions drawn in the report that continuing the investigation further would not be in the public interest in light of the continuing progress and oversight of the Fixed Charge Penalty System. A more robust system of supervision and continuous improvement would better serve to instil public confidence, as the report indicates.”

Earlier: Reports finds widespread exploitation on penalty points; One officer cancelled 744 notices across 17 counties 

Hundreds of gardaí were involved in widespread exploitation of the penalty point system which saw them wipe fines and points for friends and relatives.

The Garda Ombudsman found one officer cancelled 744 fixed charge notices across 17 counties during the four years it examined.

The watchdog warned that superintendents and inspectors wiped points and fines for driving offences outside their geographical area, contrary to policy.

Almost three quarters of the records of notices being cancelled did not carry any sufficient rationale for the action.

Some 442 officers were authorised to wipe fixed charge notices in the four years from 2009 to 2012, the report found.

Gardaí acknowledge 'systematic flaws' on penalty points; One officer cancelled 744 notices in 17 counties 

The Garda Ombudsman also found that some serving gardaí used the credentials of retired senior colleagues, who would have had the authority to cancel the penalties, in order to wipe the slate clean for friends and relatives.

The report is the latest in a long line of reviews of the scandal that was exposed by whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

At the height of inquiries into his allegations at the Public Accounts Committee former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan described the claims as "disgusting" while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, then transport minister, said Mr McCabe was "distinguished".

The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) said it received data relating to the issuing of 1.6 million fixed charge notices and 74,373 cancellations of these penalties and fines over the four years under examination.

The watchdog met Mr McCabe five times during its investigation.

Gsoc said it also examined previous reports on the controversy, including the internal report by Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney, the review of revenue issues by the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Garda Siochana Inspectorate. All identified systemic failures.

Gardaí acknowledge 'systematic flaws' on penalty points; One officer cancelled 744 notices in 17 counties 

Gsoc said it will not be investigating individual officers for potential criminality or disciplinary issues as the bill for that has been estimated to run to more than €1million.

"The Ombudsman Commission believes that the considerable cost to the public of continuing our investigation into a second phase - of investigating specific cancellations instances with a view to identifying possible behaviour of a criminal nature or constituting a breach of discipline - would outweigh the benefit," the watchdog said.

There is also a significant risk for overspend, Gsoc said.

The watchdog also warned its work would be hampered by a lack of supporting documentation for large portions of the cancellations.

It said there is no possibility of recovering fines or otherwise sanctioning motorists who may have had fixed charge notices cancelled improperly.

Gsoc also said there is no guarantee that gardaí would be prosecuted or disciplined.

In a letter to Acting Garda Commissioner Donall O Cualain, Gsoc said: "While we are ending this investigation, our interest in road safety and public confidence in garda behaviour in this area means we will keep complaints of infringements of this nature to the forefront with the hope that such complaints will become infrequent as better internal oversight deals with the legacy of poor practices in the past."

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